South Africans vote as toilet row grabs headlines
Johannesburg: South Africans on Wednesday began voting in municipal elections in which squalid unenclosed toilets built for the country's poor have become a potent symbol of local government neglect.
The African National Congress, in power since the end of apartheid 17 years ago, is expected to storm to victory given the public esteem it still enjoys for bringing down white-minority rule.
But the ANC and its leader, President Jacob Zuma, could be embarrassed by any gains for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which runs Cape Town and has campaigned as the party that can deliver municipal services.
Voting stations opened at 0500 GMT (1 a.m. EDT) and will remain open until 1700 GMT (1 p.m. EDT).
What once appeared as a dull race for control of 278 municipalities, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria, has heated up as a row over toilets whose users are exposed to public view has dominated headlines.
The ANC scored political points a few months ago when it found the DA had not built walls around public toilets in shantytowns in an area it controlled.
But it came under fire when it was revealed just before the vote to have done the same, with a local ANC official being paid state funds despite the shoddy construction.
Voting For Change
In a squatter settlement in the Meadowlands area of South Africa's biggest black township Soweto, voters were patiently queuing for hours ahead of the polls opening.
Adeline Ndlanzi, 58, standing outside a voting station in a tent among shacks and piles of rubbish, said she wanted change.
"We are living in a dirty place. I want our place to be nice, I am voting for change. There have been changes since 1994 but not enough," Ndlanzi said.
Since Zuma took power in 2009, the ANC has faced violent protests from its traditional base of poor blacks.